Storytelling Trumps Sex, Celebrities and Humor in TV Commercials

A study of 108 Super Bowl ads from the past two years concludes that the most popular and effective commercials are the ones that make the best use of good storytelling. Plot development and narrative structure, apparently, trump celebrity spokesmodels, computer generated animals, fart jokes, and David Beckham in his underwear.

Freytag's Pyramid
(Jason Seiden’s version of Freytag’s Pyramid.)

Keith Quesenberry and Michael Coolsen at Johns Hopkins predicted that Budweiser’s “Puppy Love” would win the popularity contest among viewers of this year’s Super Bowl, and, according to USA Today’s Ad Meter and Hulu’s AdZone, it was.

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From HBR:

They found that, regardless of the content of the ad, the structure of that content predicted its success. “People are attracted to stories,” Quesenberry tells me, “because we’re social creatures and we relate to other people. Especially in the Super Bowl, those 30-second ads are almost like mini movies,” he says. Quesenberry found that the ads that told a more complete story using Freytag’s Pyramid — a dramatic structure that can be traced back to Aristotle — were the most popular.

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